I don’t even know how to react when there is bald optimism at this point. Feels like we’re not entitled to it or something.
But that’s mostly what Sahadev Sharma is bringing at The Athletic this morning, writing about the timing and structure of a return to baseball for the Cubs, and including this line: “Though the public discourse indicates the two sides are far apart, most within baseball are optimistic that a deal will be reached.”
Though still in question, vision for baseball to return in Chicago grows clearer https://t.co/pX23o4QoLw
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) May 30, 2020
At last check, the owners had sought significant salary reductions from players, in addition to their already-prorated salaries, in order to sign off on starting the season without fans in attendance. To that, the players indicated clear opposition via various public messages and a strong argument from Scott Boras.
Officially, though, the players union did not respond with a counterproposal yesterday as many were expecting (full prorated salaries and 100-ish game season were expected to be among the biggest terms). Instead, it sounds like the players still want more financial data to consider any proposal from the owners:
According to confidential players union memo 5/29, no response has been made yet to MLB’s proposal and the union is awaiting “key documents” from MLB to support the “dubious financial distress claims” MLB made to explain the estimated requested $800M in “additional givebacks”
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 30, 2020
In an memo to players today, the MLBPA said it is weighing the timing and substance of a potential response to MLB’s proposal that “sought additional paycuts of more than $800M that it contends are necessary to make it economically feasible to play games without fans.” 1/2
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 29, 2020
The MLBPA’s memo to players also states, “Importantly, the union still awaits key documents from MLB that would support the dubious financial distress claims the league has made in its attempt to force the additional givebacks from players.” 2/2
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) May 29, 2020
You could read that as the union essentially deciding they will not engage with the owners at all until they get more detailed financial documents (which seems unlikely, especially with a CBA negotiation looming next year). Or you could read it as the union wanting to engage more seriously on the terms of the owners’ proposal. Your perspective probably depends on whether you share the optimism of Sharma’s sources.
For my part, as I said on Thursday, I was expecting the players to come forward with a response that amounted to their own ultra-aggressive ask, as the owners had at the start of the week. Perhaps this is that: “we’re not even going to respond with our own proposal, because we want the books fully and completely open. Shy of that, you need to go back to the drawing board and submit a different proposal. Otherwise we just keep sitting back and doing nothing.”
If financial documentation were going to solve this thing, I’d point out that the sides have wasted weeks of necessary negotiating time not actually getting to that documentation, which is to say, again, I kinda doubt that’s what will really end this process. Heck, the players sought additional financial documentation, formally, several weeks ago. Reportedly, the owners did not respond. So.
In any case, June 1 has been seen for a long time as something of a “soft deadline” for getting a deal in place, both because of the timing for the hoped-for season (players and orgs will need time to actually prepare to report for Spring Training Part Two in mid-June), and because that’s when the payments to players from the interim March agreement will end.
Is there enough time this weekend to get a deal done by Monday? I am not privy to the talks, but it’s pretty hard to imagine. Can the sides get a deal done early in the week and still stick to a timeline that allows them upwards of four Spring Training Part Two weeks for pitchers? And a regular season that starts on July 1? Again, it’s pretty hard to imagine. But I guess slightly less hard to imagine, and perhaps informing the optimism of Sharma’s sources: baseball can push these dates back a little if necessary. I understand they want to have the season start around or just before the Fourth of July holiday, but it’s not as if that’s mandated. Neither is getting in at least 82 regular season games.
Read Sharma’s piece for much, much more detail on what the Cubs’ plans would look like, specifically, for the season ahead. Clearly, there has been a lot of work behind the scenes to be ready at a moment’s notice if it looks like a season is going to happen.